Penguins notebook: Vokoun remains behind Zatkoff on goalie depth chart

Chris Adamski
| Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 3:36 p.m.

Coach Dan Bylsma left little room for interpretation in terms of the Penguins' depth chart at goalie heading into the playoffs.

“Jeff (Zatkoff) and Marc-Andre (Fleury were at Tuesday practice) carrying the bulk of the work,” Bylsma said, “and that's how it will be going forward.”

Veteran Tomas Vokoun skated on his own prior to practice a day after being recalled from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Vokoun was there for a conditioning assignment after not playing all season following the discovery of a blood clot in his pelvis in September.

Vokoun went 1-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average in 124 minutes over two games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the weekend. He stopped 41 of 46 shots.

Vokoun took over for an ineffective Fleury during last season's first round and carried the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Final. A 37-year-old veteran of 14 NHL seasons, Vokoun is one of only 29 goalies to reach 300 career wins.

Vokoun went 6-5 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .933 in last season's playoffs.

“He may join our team at optional and (game-day) skates and such but might — will — not be out there everyday with the group,” Bylsma said.

Fleury has been one of the NHL's best regular-season goalies in recent years but has struggled during the postseason since the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup run. After four years in the AHL, Zatkoff made his NHL debut at 26 for the Penguins this season. He went 12-6-2 with a 2.61 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Weeks ago, Bylsma went on record that he was comfortable with Zatkoff as the top backup heading into the playoffs. General manager Ray Shero tacitly agreed by not making a move for a veteran goalie at the trade deadline.

Reassigned but not forgotten

Tuesday morning, the Penguins reassigned three players to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Two hours later, Bylsma stressed that all three could be needed by the Penguins at some point.

Two days after playing in the Penguins' regular-season finale Sunday, defenseman Simon Despres and forwards Chuck Kobasew and Harry Zolnierczyk were sent to the AHL team.

“It's not necessarily an indication at all of them not being options for us in the playoffs,” Bylsma said. “They're not going to be in the lineup for Game 1, and I think they need to play.”

The decision to send Despres down, Bylsma said, was twofold: One, he did not need to clear waivers like the other two extra defensemen would if they were reassigned to the AHL. Two, the organization has noted that Despres' previous stints with Wilkes-Barre this season have allowed him to gain confidence and improve his game upon returning to Pittsburgh.

“He may be the guy that goes into the lineup (in a future game), so it's not a matter of Simon not being in the picture,” Bylsma said. “But it is an opportunity for him to go down and play some games and gain confidence and be ready to get called up and play when he does.”

Incidentally, Bylsma left a strong hint that, as expected, Robert Bortuzzo and Deryk Engelland will be the scratches on defense Wednesday. Bylsma said Despres was the only left-handed shot of the three excess defensemen; the Penguins' right-handed defensemen are Engelland, Bortuzzo, Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen.

No update on Goc

Out since inuring his left ankle while crashing into the boards against Los Angeles on March 27, center Marcel Goc's return to the lineup is not imminent. All Bylsma would say was that Goc, acquired in a deadline trade from Florida, was “working out.”

“I don't have an update as to when you're going to see him back on the ice and resuming skating,” Bylsma said.

Around the boards

Out since March 20 because of a mid-body injury, forward Joe Vitale went through a full practice Tuesday. Vitale termed himself “taking it day by day.” Bylsma was non-committal about Vitale's status for Game 1. … If the line pairings for practice are any indication, Taylor Pyatt and Jayson Megna will be the odd men out for Wednesday's game.

On the mend

R.J. Umberger (upper body) and Nick Foligno (lower body) will not play Wednesday, but coach Todd Richards said both might be available for Game 2 on Saturday before the series shifts Monday to Columbus.

The Blue Jackets will be without forward Nathan Horton for the duration of the playoffs after undergoing abdominal surgery last week. Horton won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011.

Bob is back

In Columbus' five games against the Penguins this season, 2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky was in goal for only the first 23 minutes of the series. That's when he was pulled after allowing three goals on 13 shots in a 4-2 loss on Nov. 1. Backup Curtis McElhinney played the remainder of the time and was 0-4-0 with a 2.66 GAA and a .908 save percentage. Bobrovsky will start Wednesday.

Not sticking around

With two off days between Games 1 and 2, the Blue Jackets will fly home Wednesday night and practice Thursday and Friday in Columbus before returning for the morning skate Saturday at Consol Energy Center.

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